Monday, January 5, 2015

Swimming Down Syndrome

      Let's face it: the Special Olympics has been a boon to the fitness regimen for many disabled folks who would never otherwise get out of the house.  Amanda is no exception.  Over the years, getting her to exercise has taken a considerable amount of coaxing, begging, and strategic thinking on my part.

     But one thing she loves to do is swim.  She actually won several gold medals while competing in Mt Pleasant years ago.  She didn't always fancy the beach, but if given an opportunity, she would rarely turn down a chance to go in a pool.  So when I found out an excerpt from our story, THE NORTH SIDE OF DOWN, would be featured in the BookDaily "Health and Fitness" ezine, this chapter immediately sprang to mind:

      Physical activity was demanding for Amanda.  She didn’t want to take walks with me.  I figured if I weighed over 200 pounds, with bad knees and tiny, flat feet, I wouldn’t want to walk, either.  But she could swim.  Our cousin Denny had a pool at his hotel, and so as summer heated up, that became our ritual.  Best of all, on days when she went swimming, I didn’t make her take a shower.  If the chlorine was heavy, she could just hose off at the pool.  She didn’t have any hair to wash.  I did insist that she shave her armpits.  When I wasn’t around, she had a tendency to let the hair grow.  That was easy enough for me to fix.  If she happened to lift her arm for any reason, exposing armpit hair, I would make the motion of pulling the cord on a lawn mower.           

“Rrrrummm…  Rummm rum rum rum!” I would grab the invisible handle and jounce like I was pushing it.
            She glared at me.  “Knock it off!” 
            But it always worked.  She would shave her armpits.
            She hated the whole shower effort.  “It’s always the same old thing.”
            On our first swim day, she came out of the bathroom wearing her shorts and tank top over a leopard print one-piece. 
            “I had to wrestle my swimming suit to get it on,” she said, sitting down and reaching for her shoes.
            “Okay, I’ll be ready in a sec.” I went in the bathroom and glanced into the bathtub.  On the curve of rusty porcelain near the drain there was a creature about the size of a quarter, with eight tentacles.  I believe the scientific name for it is Lupus Arachnis Horribilis. Being an animal lover, I had no fear of spiders, regardless of their size, but this was a good opportunity to stir things up with Amanda.

The lens case is for size comparison, although I later claimed I had, "dropped my lens case when I realized the brown blob wasn't my false eyelashes!"
            "Amanda!" I screeched. "You've got to see this!"
            She must have known what I was yelling about, because she came hobbling in armed with a fly swatter. "I'm gonna swoosh him.”
            I jumped up and down screaming while she swooshed and Lupus ran down the drain. She turned on the faucet. "It's okay Nancy. He's gone. Pull yourself together."
            As we got in the car, I said, “Jeesh, after all that I am gonna need a cola.  Let’s head over to the Northwood.  You can tell Celia’s mom about your conquest.”
            “Celia's mother doesn't own the restaurant anymore,” Amanda said. 
            “She doesn’t?”
            “No.  She said she misses working there.”
            “Who owns it now?”
            “The other owner.”
            We drove on down through the woods to Pins restaurant, turning down the cracked ribbon of pavement to the resort area where the big wooden fence surrounded Denny’s pool.  Til was panting in the back seat.  He jumped out when I opened the door and ran into the woods with his nose down, his plumy white tail waving.  “Hurry up!” I yelled. “Go potty! Hurry up!”
            “Jeesh. Pressure, Nancy. Pressure!”  Amanda said.
            “Well, you don’t want any accidents in the pool, do you?” 
            “Don’t be gross!”
            Til performed his duty and came blasting back, and we walked up to the big, creaky gate and stepped inside.  As I had expected, we were the only ones there.  As Amanda rolled and played in the water, tossing a ball for the elated dog, I watched from the poolside. 
            “Here,” I took a couple of quarters from my pocket and dropped them in, watching as they glinted and flipped to the bottom.  “See if you can find these!”
            She dove, slippery as a seal, her little flat feet pointing and waving up at the wrinkled water’s surface, her hand patting the pool floor all around the quarters.  She was so buoyant that it was taking hard scissor kicks to keep her inverted.  I was thinking I could probably get some muscle tone on her just by dropping things into the pool a few days a week.
            Finally, she came up gasping for breath. 
            “You missed!” I shouted.
            “I know,” she said.
            “Can’t you open your eyes?”
            “I don’t like getting them in the chlorine.  I don’t have my goggles.  Hey, you should come in with me!”
            “Not gonna happen.  You know I don’t swim.”
            “Chicken.  Bawk, bawk buk buk.”
            “That’s right.  And if the ferry ever sinks, you’re under contract to save my sorry cement block ass.”
            “It’s a deal.”  She dove again, patting the bottom and this time I saw her fist close over a quarter.  She surfaced.  “I got it!”
            She swam to the poolside, putting the quarter up by my foot.  “Here’s your change, Nancy.”
            As I bent over to pick it up, I was hit in the side of the face and head with a blast of cold water.  “Hey!”
            I looked up and caught a glimpse of the squirt gun she was aiming at me, just before another shot of water hit me right between the eyes.  “You’re gonna get wet, one way or the other, you rat!” She was roaring laughter, dousing me with rapid bursts of cold spray as I screamed and ducked away.
            “How did you…” I shouted, and then choked as she caught me with another shot square in the mouth.  I had never heard her laugh so hard. 
            “Let me introduce my secret weapon, Nancy!” she shouted.  She was floating upright, bobbing gently in the water like a buoy, her bald head gleaming in the bright sun, pointing the lime green plastic gun at me.

By Nancy J. Bailey and Amanda Bailey
Copyright 2014

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